Postimees 12.aug 2002
For already a week it has been possible to see in Tallinn in the Old Town Theatre House the huge, impressive and colourful exhibition of paintings and drawings, entitled “Southern Temperament and Northern Persistency,” of the Armenian artist Rafael Arutyunyan born in Azerbaijan, dedicated to the artist’s 65th birthday. The works are interesting from the artistic point of view since the artist who has inherited the hot Caucasian blood has graduated from the Estonian State Art Institute in 1964. Just like it is stressed in the title of the exhibition, his creation is a combination of the art education and persistency obtained in a northern country, which makes him paint and draw the same motives over and over again, and the southern temperament.
Among Moslems as a Christian
If one is looking for the main motives of the creation of Rafael Arutyunyan, which start the creative process in him, one can find an abundance of Christian symbolism while looking at the exhibited works. This also seems to be natural.
Because Armenians are Christians whose land is surrounded by hostile hordes of Moslems, the religion as a basis for the nation’s identity thus has a more important role there than in our rough climate.
The Islamic problem has been strongly recognised by the western civilisation only in the last decades. However, the Armenians have experienced this conflict of civilisations for centuries.
Arutyunyan himself recommends interpreting his works philosophically, but the attachment to thinking will remain connected to religious philosophy in his creation. Many of the figures depicted in his paintings depart from the text of the Bible.
In the painting-collage “Adam and Eve” the philosophical views of the artist are vividly expressed. The artist has painted two figures opposed to each other whose eyes have been replaced by mirrors. While standing in front of this work one can feel protest against the orderliness of the people who have hanged the paintings.
The paintings were hanging neatly in line on the walls of the exhibition hall, just like being arranged with a ruler. But this work was definitely placed too high over the heads of the spectators. The idea which the artist had wanted to express was almost entirely lost. If placed a bit lower, the eyes of the mythical ancestors would have reflected the people visiting the exhibition hall with all their specter of feelings, with all their sins and virtues.
In addition to the paintings inspired by religion, the philosophical understandings of the artist are burdened by military symbolism, by the fact that man is clattering the same bucket with a remarkable consistency, producing weapons with which to destroy other people of his kind.
From the works inspired by these motives the most memorable is the collage titled “The Parade of Weapons,” which represents a special link between religious motives and works inspired by arms.
Also here the artist has used his favourite method of adding daily banal objects to his works, in this certain case a child’s play sword. But philosophically the sword is a derivation from a cross and artists have used this kind of exchange game constantly. At this point certainly the scene from “Hamlet” comes to one’s mind in which the main character met his father’s spirit wearing a sword as a cross in front of him.
For a northern spectator the works of Arutyunyan may remain somewhat strange, their Christian symbolism and militarily institutionalised violence would rather raise a dialogue with a deeply religious nation and temperamental people, who are ready to stand for their rights with weapon in hand, than with a religious coolness and the modest violence-free culture of the local spectators.